By Kenny Choi

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A growing number of medical professionals are asking the California Department of Health to explain future masking guidelines at schools now that vaccines for 5-to 11-year-olds are on the way.

Some leading UCSF doctors believe giving parents a clearer picture of when masks could come off in schools will lead to higher vaccination rates.

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They say their petition is gaining traction.

“I don’t even think we’ve begun to see the effects of what masking and COVID has done to our children,” said parent Chelsea Schlunt.

The arrival of vaccine doses for 5-to 11-year-olds is prompting parents, and respected doctors to ask, ‘when will masks come off in schools?’

“This only came about because we are discussing metrics for when adults should unmask so we should also be doing that for children,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi.

Gandhi and UCSF director of COVID response Dr. Jeanne Noble just launched a petition urging state health officials to provide a definitive off-ramp, so parents aren’t left playing a guessing game.

“Parents want to know when this is going to end. It’s really not fair. I have a three-year-old and the bulk of his life this child has been masked, and I’m not okay with it anymore,” said Schlunt.

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“I don’t think the masks really hurt. Kids have adapted to them and they’re more adaptable to them than we are,” said parent Arturo Morosoff.

Gandhi is pro-vaccine, but withdrew her support of California’s student mandate if health officials won’t provide clear guidance on when universal masking in schools will be lifted.

“I think we should be doing everything to restore normalcy for our children because it’s not just COVID but also their mental health effects. They’re going to be protected because they have the vaccine,” said Gandhi.

The health department updated its website recently saying in part, California “will continue to maintain the universal indoor mask mandate in K-12 schools and will continue to monitor conditions through the winter.”

“I don’t know what anxiety was being caused by my three-year-old being masked up to 30 hours a week but I can’t imagine it’s healthy. No time in history have we done this to children ever,” said Schlunt.

The Centers for Disease Control advisory committee and director approved the vaccine for 5-to 11-year -olds, Wednesday.

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Some 28 million children are now eligible and shots can begin going into arms starting Wednesday.